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Ski Luxury for Less

Hankering after the holiday but don't want to donate a kidney to afford the lift pass? Check out our top tips on how to save while you ski.

Immediately after a school holiday is the most popular time to book the next holiday but frankly I’m so exhausted I can’t wait until January, so I’m cracking on. Just call me an early adopter.

This feature on how to do enjoy a luxe skiing holiday without having to donate a kidney for your lift pass comes courtesy of Joanna, my brilliant editor in Muddy Wiltshire. Clearly she has spent years and years flitting about on the powder because this post is rammed full of insider knowledge. Thanks for the inspo Joanna and don’t worry – I’ll be back at work at the end of April.

View of the Pleney, Morzine

Right then, it’s powder days and goggle tans, I’m gonna need a new ski jacket (that’s easy – trendy snow store Turners have the Goldbergh ‘biker’ jacket I’m hankering  after) and let’s make sure the chalet has a hot tub and…whoa! Stop right there, lady. The euro has gone sky high and the measly pound’s gone to pot and my budget won’t buy me diddly squat, will it? And what about the disappearing snow, don’t I have to go super high up? Well no, you don’t actually. Your best friend Muddy is here with some very clever ways to make your money go further. We have picked the brains of the people in the know and they are here to show you just how to have that super-luxe holiday you want (no, you deserve) for less.

 

The resort

Having skied a few Christmases on grass (hay, even. That was an interesting experience) I was starting to think that many ski resorts aren’t worth skiing in the early season when prices are low. Tignes, Val Thorens, the bold-brash office blocks of Ishgl, even Whistler and Keystone, these were the only resorts that could guarantee snow, with their purpose-built smugness and tip-top prices and peaks well above 3000m. Although Ishgl is worth the trip for their famous start- and end-of-season Top of the Mountain concerts that attract an A-list of international stars – Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner et al – but that’s another story… But I was wrong. Turns out, with the issue of climate change lurking in the background, more and more lower resorts are making snow from the water in local lakes or reservoirs and, ta da!, white everywhere! Even in Colorado, around 98% of resorts are reliant on what can be created by machines.

Morzine in winter

Closer to home, the top resort in Europe for keeping the slopes open  – and not purely by making snow, they also conserve the downfalls they have early in the season and manage the slopes carefully – is Portes du Soleil. Les Portes du Soleil encompasses 13 resorts between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland, primarily Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets. A bumper bonus is that Morzine and Lets Gets are a mere 90 minute transfer from Geneva airport.  Plus, by making snow and keeping the runs open, we’re on for both early and late skiing, so you can get super-luxe winter hols without paying the prices of mid Feb.

 

Cool chalets for super-cool prices

There are some great deals offering luxe for less through some of the larger ski operators – ski chalet specialists Ski Total have stays in La Tania so you can explore the leviathan that is the Three Valleys, and Skiline has offers in super-luxe Meribel-Mottaret – but travelling this way will primarily be package holidays and your flexibility can be limited. Our bet is to ditch the big brands and go straight to the chalets themselves for the best deals on luxury.

Our top tip for luxe for less this winter is Reach4thealps, a growing chalet company offering catered and self-catering stays in Morzine, Lets Gets and Montriond, the perfect base to explore the massive ski area of Portes Du Soleil.

Run by Scottish husband-and-wife team Gina and Marcus and their amazing staff, this is proper luxury without having to sell off the kids.

Make it a weekend

So, you’d rather have a whole week but the budget doesn’t stretch that far? How about a weekend or short break instead? A 3-night stay means less time off work, less time for Granny to cope with the little cherubs and you can still get four full days skiing if you are clever with your timings.

The view from Chalets Hibou and Chouette

Kids go free

Keep a beady eye out for deals offering free accommodation for children. InghamsEsprit Ski and Iglu Skiare all offering Kids Go Free deals. Reach4thealps offers free Portes du Soleil lift passes for children under 12 with the purchase of an adult pass this Easter, for weeks commencing 31 March and 7 April – bang in the middle of the hols! Some resorts offer completely free skiing to kids under 7, other have free children’s skiing during certain weeks. You can even find resorts where Granny and Grandpa get to ski for free.

In Portes du Soleil, early booking on ski passes and family passes can save as much as 15% and if you’re planning on hanging out for more than a few weeks you can get ridiculously cheap prices on season passes (kids go free for the whole season when you buy an adult season pass). Even if you are skiing with a group of adults you can make huge savings – morzine-avoriaz.com has a myriad of ski pass combos to choose from.

Ski hire

Chalet companies will often offer huge discounts if you rent skis and boots from their preferred partners – as much as 40% off. However, it’s worth remembering when hiring equipment that not all ski hire is created equal – choose a company that genuinely use top of the range equipment (even if you’re a beginner) and not just one that says they do. It can make a massive difference to your skiing.  Francois Baud in the centre of Morzine (quite frankly the best possible location to hire your skis from. Mere metres from the lifts and only a short stumble back from the bar at the end of the day) offer fab discounts on top-of-the-range brand-new ski equipment, plus they will keep your ski and boots nice and toasty overnight for you in heated storage lockers.

Ski lessons

A bit like ski hire – shop around. Then shop around some more. This is the one area I wouldn’t scrimp on, however. There is a huge difference between a small, locally-run ski school where the instructor speaks good English, doesn’t ditch your kid when they’re throwing a wobbly and there are less than forty-five kids in a class, compared to some of the huge French national schools. I’m plumping for the British Alpine Ski School for excellent lessons – they have a tip-top reputation and actually take the time to listen to you during the lesson. As one of the original and best British ski schools in Morzine, these guys are in high demand through the bulk of the season – so book early.

 

Boarders
Are you a boarder? Our fave snowboard school on the mountain is Real Snowboarding. The main men, Barry and Dave, teach all levels of snowboarding but thrive on coaching freestyle boarding (they both coach the British Military freestyle snowboard teams and Barry coaches the British junior snowboard team). They run lessons for all abilities but their snowboard camps are a must for all keen boarders. Book now for their winter snowboarding camp 18-25 March, aimed at intermediate and above snowboarders looking to get into the snow park…details will be on their website soon so watch this space.

 

Travel

Don’t fly! Morzine is one of the closest resorts to the UK mainland, the drive is perfectly do-able from Calais and you’ll knock out the whole journey, including super-speedy Euro Tunnel and all tolls, for well under £700. That’s in total, not per person. Might want to invest in iPads and headphones for the kids though or the journey might seriously test your sanity.

 

Activities and apres-ski 

Book the kids into all-day ski school and save the mountain fondue feasts just for yourself. You’ll save a fortune on their lunches and they’ll be more than happy with a bowl of pasta with their mates.

morzine-avoriaz.com has loads of cool things to do from paragliding, heli-skiing and nordic walking to snowmobiling, ice diving (!!) and night-sledging.

 

Further afield

Don’t fancy the Alps this year? Chase the powder across the pond with deals in Mammoth with Ski Safari. Norway is the hot new luxe place to go – Voss Resort in the Norwegian fjords is the perfect skiing destination for powder, off-piste and ski-touring, with – big tick – uncrowded slopes. Or – don’t laugh – adventurers after a powder paradise are heading to the mountains of Iran. Snoworks is running a trip to Iran’s top resorts for British skiers in March, with tour operator Mountain Heaven.

 

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